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A CFD Aided Hydraulic Turbine Design

Methodology Applied to Francis Turbines

Hasan Akin, Zeynep Aytac, Fatma Ayancik, Ece Ozkaya, Emre Arioz, Kutay Celebioglu, Selin Aradag
TOBB University of Economics and Technology Department of Mechanical Engineering
Sogutozu, Ankara, 06560, Turkey

AbstractFrancis type turbines are commonly used in
hydropower generation. Spiral case, stay vanes, guide vanes,
runner and draft tube are the main components of the turbine.
Available net head and discharge values determine the initial
dimensions of these parts according to theoretical and
experimental data. In this study, a design methodology is
described to optimize the design by integrating in-house Matlab
codes and commercial CFD codes. CFD is widely used to solve
complex three-dimensional (3D) flows occurring in these types of
turbo machines. This paper discusses the basic principles of a
computational fluid dynamics (CFD) aided design methodology
applied to Francis turbines.
Keywords-computational fluid dynamics; CFD; Francis
turbine; turbine design
Today, hydropower is the most important renewable energy
source among the other sources for Turkey and all other
countries around the world. Hydraulic turbines are used for
hydro-power generation. Hydraulic turbines produce
approximately one fifth of the total electricity in the world
(World Energy Council, 2006). Their efficiencies can rise up to
95% and hydraulic turbines generate electricity with a
minimum amount of pollution. In addition, they have a great
energy storing capability and are able to meet the daily
changing electricity demand. [1]
Hydraulic turbines are basically classified in two groups;
impulse and reaction turbines. Impulse turbines work based on
the momentum principle. Water hits the runner blades in the
form of a water jet and this impact causes a force on the runner
which causes the runner to turn [2]. Pelton turbine is an
example of impulse turbines. In reaction turbines, the flow is
fully pressurized through the turbine. The potential energy of
water is converted to kinetic energy by a velocity rise. It uses
the action-reaction principle. Examples of reaction turbines are
Francis and Kaplan type turbines [3].
Francis turbines are applicable to a wide range of head
(from 64 m to 700 m) and specific speed (from 51 rpm to 250
rpm) values. Their wide range of applicability and easier
structural design makes Francis turbines more advantageous
than other hydraulic turbines [4].
The main components of a Francis turbine are spiral case,
stay vanes, guide vanes, runner and draft tube; which are
illustrated in Fig. 1.

Figure 1. The main components of a Francis turbine
Spiral case distributes the flow radially around stay vanes
in a uniform manner. It converts the pressure head into velocity
head. The cross-sectional area of the spiral case decreases
uniformly along the circumference in order to keep the fluid
velocity constant along its way through the stay vanes. Stay
vanes provide the flow to distribute in a uniform manner with
minimum hydraulic losses. In addition, they ensure the
structural strength by connecting the upper and the lower ring.
After leaving the stay vanes, the fluid reaches the guide vanes
which distribute the flow around the runner. The guide vanes
direct the fluid on to the runner blades at the appropriate angle
by rotating about their axis. They are the only devices available
to control the ow and thus the power output of a Francis
turbine [5]. Flow directed by the guide vanes hits the runner
blades. With the effect of this impulse, the turbine generator
shaft starts to rotate which enables the production of electricity.
Water leaves the runner at a minimum pressure, once it
releases its energy. Draft tube provides a connection between
the runner exit and the tailwater level. Throughout this path,
draft tube increases the water pressure. The cross-sectional area
of the draft tube increases along the way to the tailwater in
This project is supported by Turkish Ministry of Development.
order to provide the deceleration of water with minimum
hydraulic losses and with maximum pressure recovery [6].
Developing technology enhanced the computational power
and led to the improvement of turbine design. An accurate
prediction of flow inside the hydraulic turbine is nowadays
possible by the use of state-of-the-art CFD tools [7], [8].
CFD codes solving either Euler or RANS formulations
evolved over time and yielded good results [9]. The test results
obtained from experiments usually match up with CFD results.
Today, it is possible to determine the turbine performance
using CFD tools. CFD tools include 3D codes involving Euler
equations followed by codes involving Reynolds-Averaged
Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations [10], [11].
This study discusses the design and optimization process of
an entire Francis turbine for a specific case. Firstly, the steps of
the design methodology are stated and then criteria to decide
whether the design is optimal or not are explained.
A. General Design Methodology
Each hydropower project needs a different hydraulic turbine
design. To make the design process easier, a general
methodology, which is the same for each component was
previously developed by Okyay [6] as shown in Fig. 2.

Figure 2. Design methodology [6]

The process starts with the preliminary design which is
based on the net head value available at the turbine inlet and
the discharge in the system. The in-house Matlab codes are
used for the determination of the initial dimensions. The codes
include some theoretical formulae for parameters of each
component. These theoretical design parameters of the
components do not always provide the required turbine
performance, as unexpected flow behavior such as flow
separation and/or cavitation may occur which the codes cannot
take into account. As a result, CFD tools are used to optimize
the geometrical parameters by simulating the flow throughout
the turbine. This process is an iterative procedure and it
continues until the required turbine parameters are obtained.
When the requested conditions are fulfilled, the manufacturing
step starts.
B. CFD Methodology
ANSYS v.11 CFX Solver is used for the CFD analysis.
Because of the large computation time and effort of whole
turbine analysis, each component is simulated separately to
validate its initial design. The turbulent flow inside the turbine
is modeled by using k- and SST models. k- turbulence model
is mainly used in the turbine design, whereas SST turbulence
model is performed for runner simulations. Mathematically
modeled geometries are meshed separately. Stay vanes, guide
vanes and the runner are meshed with H/J/C/L Grid using
TurboGrid module, whereas the spiral case and the draft tube
are meshed using hexahedral mesh elements. After the meshing
process, pressure inlet and mass flow outlet boundary
conditions are given for all component simulations in CFX
The design process begins with the spiral case. The initial
dimensions are obtained using the in-house Matlab codes
which use the theoretical Law of constancy of the velocity
moment through the spiral case. Spiral case is modeled using
a computer aided design (CAD) program for the selected
wicket gate height, runner diameter and predicted outflow
angle. Spiral case is redesigned using CFD results, until the
flow is distributed uniformly around the stay vanes. The outlet
conditions of the spiral case are used as the inlet conditions of
the stay vanes.
Stay vane and guide vane geometries are constructed based
on theoretical formulations and experience using the BladeGen
module. The optimization process continues until the correct
flow angles and minimum hydraulic losses are obtained. In
addition, the outlet conditions of the stay vane are used as the
inlet conditions of the guide vane. Also, the outlet conditions of
the guide vane are used as the inlet conditions of the runner.
The initial dimensions of the rotational component of the
turbine, runner, is determined using the in-house Matlab codes
which are prepared from theoretical formulations that are based
on the specific speed of the turbine. Runner is modeled with
the BladeGen module and analyzed with the solver for
rotational components. Main target values are the runner
efficiency and runner shaft power. Also cavitation should not
occur on runner blades. After the runner blade geometry is
optimized with CFD, runner solid model is created with the
CAD program. The analyses are carried out for a single blade
to avoid high computational costs.
The inlet conditions of the draft tube are obtained from the
outlet conditions of the runner. Initial draft tube dimensions are
determined from the outlet diameter of the runner and also
from the alignment of Francis turbine. Draft tube pressure
recovery factor and flow behavior are also investigated. The
draft tube performance is described by pressure recovery
Finally, after individual analyses are carried out for each
component, tandem cascade analyses (spiral case + stay vane,
stay vane + guide vane, spiral case + stay vane + guide vane)
are performed in order to improve the accuracy of the
The methodology developed is applied for the design of
turbines of Yuvacik H.E.P.P in Turkey, zmit. Two identical
horizontal Francis type turbines are required. The plant
capacity is 2.3 MW.
The net head and the system discharge are necessary input
variables. Yuvacik hydropower plant has a net head of 45 m
and the total design discharge is 5 m
/s. As both turbines are of
the same type and have the same properties, the design head
and discharge are 45 m and 2 m
/s per turbine; since the two
turbines are in operation at the same time. Design head and
discharge values indicate that horizontal shaft Francis type
turbines based on the turbine selection charts are suitable.
Below, the important CFD results of the final design of
each component are given.
A. Spiral Case
The equal distribution of the water around the runner is
significant for a balanced operation of the turbine. As plotted in
Fig.3, the radial flow velocity has a uniform distribution at the
outlet of the spiral case. The same behavior is observed in the
pressure distribution on the spiral mid-plane, shown in Fig. 4.

Figure 3. Radial and circumferential velocity distribution at the spiral
case outlet

Figure 4. Pressure distribution and velocity vectors on the mid-plane
B. Stay Vanes
Distribution of the static pressure in the stay vane passage
is as shown in Fig. 5. The gradual pressure values between the
stay vanes indicate the use of correct inflow and outflow
angles. As shown in Fig. 6, the flow is distributed uniformly
between stay vanes.

Figure 5. Pressure distribution on the mid-plane

Figure 6. Velocity distribution on the mid-plane
C. Guide Vanes
The pressure variation between the guide vanes which are
assigned a symmetric NACA profile is shown in Fig. 7. The
flow is guided with correct angle and minimum hydraulic loss
to the runner. Any backflow or flow separation is not observed
in flow area between the guide vanes, as shown in Fig. 8.

Figure 7. Pressure distribution on the mid-plane

Figure 8. Velocity distribution on the mid-plane
D. Runner
A runner efficiency of 97.1 percent is obtained from the
final runner simulations, which satisfies the requirements such
as the desired power, uniform velocity distribution and
cavitation-free blades. Flow separation does not occur because
the meridional vectors follow the meridional path as plotted in
Fig. 9. The velocity vectors shown in Fig. 10 follow the blade
profile throughout the runner passage.

Figure 9. Meridional flow velocity vectors

Figure 10. Velocity distribution on the mid-plane
E. Draft Tube
The velocity vectors on the mid-plane of the draft tube are
plotted, as shown in Fig. 11. The flow moves in a good
manner from the inlet of the draft tube through the outlet of
the draft tube and no flow separation is detected. According
to Fig. 12, the static pressure increases in the flow direction,
which is the main role of the draft tube. The pressure recovery
factor of the draft tube, which is up to 0.90 for highly efficient
draft tubes, is investigated and 0.85 recovery factor is reached
for the final design.

Figure 11. Velocity vectors on symmetry plane

Figure 12. Pressure distribution on symmetry plane
The developed design methodology is applied for the
turbine design of an actual hydropower project. The overall
results of the each Francis-type turbine components designed
with the help of CFD are presented in Table I. According to the
final CFD results, an overall turbine efficiency of 92.3% is
reached. As the performance values of the design satisfy the
requirements of the Yuvacik H.E.P.P project, the structural
verification of the design is accomplished and the
manufacturing process was started. The assembly of the
designed Francis turbine is shown in Fig. 13.
Runner Draft Tube

0.98 0.998 0.994 0.971 Cp=0.85
H (m) 1.03 0.1 0.31 43.753 -
Design Head 45 m
(1 unit)
2.5 m
Shaft Power
(1 Unit)
1150 kW

Figure 13. The assembly of the designed Francis turbine
The authors would like to thank to TEMSAN (Turkish
Electromechanical Industry) and Su-Ener Engineering Inc. for
their help and support. The computations are performed at
TOBB ETU Center for Hydro Energy Research, CFD

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